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Baum Avenue stands quietly for a pioneer

An occasional feature on the origins of names in South Pinellas. A narrow little road called Baum Avenue runs between Central Avenue and First Avenue N.

It extends from Eighth to 13th streets N, where it stops at the side of the police station. Unless you are a customer of C & S Sovran National Bank, whose property it intersects from Eighth to Ninth streets N, you probably never have used Baum. The rest of the avenue, heading west from Ninth Street, features trash containers and the back doors of businesses.

But its name derives from one of St. Petersburg's earliest settlers, Jacob Baum. Baum preceded the Orange Belt Railway (1888) and the incorporation of St. Petersburg (1892); he and his wife, Jeannette, came here from Pennsylvania in 1879, according to Karl Grismer in The Story of St. Petersburg.

Mrs. Baum's brother, A. B. Chandler, worked his way around Florida on a survey boat and judged the Pinellas peninsula his favorite spot. He bought 40 acres next to Mirror Lake, then called Reservoir Lake because it supplied the drinking water for St. Petersburg.

Baum followed his brother-in-law's lead and bought 80 acres in the same area. The price was 90 cents an acre, Grismer wrote.

Baum's original property extended from the south side of the lake to what is now First Avenue S, and from an alley between Sixth and Seventh streets to 14th Street. .

When the Baums arrived in town, having been married less than a year, they lived in an abandoned log cabin northwest of Mirror Lake, hardly an auspicious beginning, Grismer wrote. They immediately began building a home on the south side of the lake, using lumber hauled from Tampa. Baum planted an orange grove on his land.

Baum knew where to buy property because the Orange Belt Railway, with many other destinations originally planned, ended at First Avenue S and Ninth Street in 1888. His property was much in demand, and he sold some of it.

One of the first buyers was E. R. Ward, who already had a store on Big Bayou. He bought an old building from Baum and established a store at Ninth Street and First Avenue S, St. Petersburg's first general store. The city's first post office also was in this block.

Ward and Baum created the Ward and Baum plat at what now is Ninth Street and extending from First Avenue N to First Avenue S east to Eighth Street, according to old maps. Additions to the east were made later. The transaction was recorded April 4, 1888. The Williams-Demens plat of St. Petersburg was recorded in August. The unincorporated city had an addition before it became a city.

Ward and Baum did a brisk business selling their lots, which, at 50 feet each, were smaller than John C. Williams' lots. Ward and Baum's lots sold for $30 to $60 each.

The Ninth Street and Central Avenue area was the central part of St. Petersburg for several years. But when the railroad was extended to Second Street and First Avenue S in 1889, rival factions came to the tiny town, which had a population of just 30 in 1888.

The few small stores and homes in the Ninth and Central area became known as "uptown," and the Second Street area as "downtown." About 1888, T. A. Whitted moved to St. Petersburg from Disston City (Gulfport) and continued in the building trade for which he was known.

"He built every window, door and sash in Gulfport and St. Petersburg until 1908 or '09," said his grandson, Eric Whitted. After St. Petersburg incorporated in 1892 (the vote was 15 for, 11 against incorporation), Whitted said, his grandfather joined Baum in running for City Council on the Open Saloon ticket, headed by John C. Williams as mayoral candidate. They lost. The anti-Saloon ticket won, with David Moffett receiving 21 votes to become the city's first mayor.

This appears to have been Baum's only entry into politics. He died in 1894 at age 59. Mrs. Baum sold the family home in 1899 and built a 22-room house "downtown," renting rooms to tourists for many years, Grismer wrote.